The maiden International Conference on Development Engineering held in Accra has ended with a call on Africa to make development engineering an integral part of the continent’s development agenda.
The two-day conference, organised by Academic City University College in partnership with Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA brought together experts to discuss ways of pushing the development engineering agenda beyond its current limits by drawing on new design thinking, cross-cultural co-design, and project-based learning.
Over the years, science and engineering have long contested histories in the developing world such as the African continent. What has often been the greatest challenge is the lack of appreciation and understanding of project proponents intended for communities.
Usually, experts fail to put into consideration the traditions and involvement of local people which projects are intended to serve. Finally, communities are often considered clients or customers to corporations or product developers rather than stakeholders or even collaborators.
The conference brought together industry, academicians, researchers, students, NGOs, traditional authorities to discuss and share experience on how science and technology can truly bring development to the communities it seeks to support.
Speaking at the event, Prof. Fred McBagonluri, President of Academic City University College stressed the need to co-define and co-create solutions that would contribute to improving all areas of the economy especially the developing countries.
“Developing countries can no longer afford to be passive participants in developing efforts or mere recipient of technology created elsewhere under different set of conditions and shared by development,” he said.
He noted that the conference provides a valuable opportunity for researchers and industry players to dialogue and share experiences and deploy outcomes in the various communities to ensure socio-economic development.
Prof. Winston Wole Soboyejo, Senior Vice President and Provost of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA remarked, “As Africans, we should begin to see the numerous challenges on the continent as an inspiration to engender us to critically scrutinize these challenges and provide measures to develop the continent.”
“Over the years, westerners that have undertaken research and projects in Africa have been inspired. I have realized that the knowledge they gain here has a greater value than getting them a good job. They are inspired by the knowledge gained in Africa to develop solutions to pressing challenges across the globe.”
He questioned why the continent is richly endowed with numerous natural resources but remains among the poorest continents in the world. “It is time, we start to place emphasis on the combination of theory and practical to achieve impact in all sectors. We need to adopt the smart world technology rightly designed for the continent to catapult us into the 21st century.”
Ing. Leslie Alex Ayeh, President of the Ghana Institution of Engineering (GhIE) stated that the aim of the conference was in line with GhIE’s commitment to leverage engineering and technology to achieve sustainable development.
He commended Academic City and WPI for the initiative and expressed hope that the conference will help discover great ideas which will be relevant to the development agenda of the African continent.
Some of the conference speakers included Ing. Kwabena Agyepong, Executive Secretary of GhIE; Adelaide Asante Asantewaa, Chief Operation Officer, AIMS Ghana; Prof. Robert Krueger, Associate Professor, WPI; Prof. Laureen Elgert, WPI; Dr. Kwame Boakye, Former President of GhIE; Dr Mahamadou Lamine Sagna, American University, Nigeria; Dr. Linda Deigh and Dr. Lucy Agyepong, both from Academic City.